| Snakin' Sneffels for the Solstice
Climb of Mt Sneffels via (east) Birthday Chute
Ski/board descent of the Snake Couloir
Return to Yankee Boy Basin via Lavender Couloir
About 5000' climbed and skied, 7 miles (but it felt like a bigger day than the numbers show)
Crew: Gerlinde (telerina13):
JimBob, the resident marmot:
This trip was conceived in the heady atmosphere of Brittany Walker and Frank Konsella's wedding in Crested Butte on the 18th. Imagine the energy and enthusiasm of a room full of crazed and happy ski mountaineers, well lubricated by an open bar... you get the idea.
Our calendar marks the summer solstice as the first day of summer. In northern European and Scandinavian culture it is Midsummer's Day - the longest day of the year, after which we begin the long gradual slide back to winter. Kim suggested celebrating this day with a long, not-so-gradual slide down the Snake Couloir that graces the north face of Mt Sneffels. We waited patiently while snow fell on the 20th (!), and prepared to set out on the 21st.
After hitting the snooze button a couple of times, we hit the trail around 6:00 am. After an hour's warmup we were greeted by some highly informative signboards:
We skinned up among the spires and ramparts of Mt Sneffels...
... while the sun burned away the last remnants of the previous day's storm:
Our chosen route was up the (climber's) right-hand Birthday Chute, which afforded a fairly direct shot to the summit on snow:
Lizard Head watched us climb from a distance:
The day was perfect; brilliant sunshine, yet not uncomfortably hot on the climb:
The scenery was really rather pleasant...
... and, with the exception of some recalcitrant crampon straps, the climb proceeded without incident:
Jarrett led the way:
Here Kim and Gerlinde approach the summit:
The beauty of Sneffels' summit thoroughly lives up to its magical reputation. Toward the east, Uncompahgre towers above the surrounding San Juans:
The Wilson Group graces the western skyline:
The Grenadiers lie to the south:
And Dallas seems close enough to touch:
After an unhurried rest on the summit we set up to rappel into the Snake Couloir. (We used two 30m ropes tied together; this was ample but a single 50m rope might not have been enough.)
Gerlinde arrives at the top of the ski run:
Jarrett looks down in anticipation:
We had the pleasure of meeting up with David, Matt and (if I remember right) Scooter, who had climbed the Snake from Blaine Basin:
Skiing down was interesting, exhilarating, and even scary in spots. The snowfall and subsequent wind redistribution had filled in the hollows and runnels in the snow, and the north-facing aspect had preserved it fairly well. The varying degree of sun exposure made for a rapidly changing surface.
A cornice looms above the lower half of the chute:
To add to the mystery of the place, the Snake is steep, narrow and curvy, so you can't see the bottom until you're almost all the way through:
Looking back up from below:
Once down, the long part of the day began. We traversed to the east...
... then began the 1800 foot climb to the Lavender Col:
Visions of cold beers danced in our heads as we attained the col and made the final transition before sliding gratefully back to the trucks:
Thanks to my compadres for a great day, and thanks for reading!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):